The owner of an Elkridge massage parlor pleaded guilty yesterday to offering bribes to a state inspector and two Howard County police officers in hopes of getting them to provide false licenses and harass other massage parlors in the county.
Sung Yul Kim, 66, of Fort Lee, N.J., was sentenced to three years in prison, one for each count of bribery. The sentence was suspended, except for six months to be spent in a work-release program.
Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley also ordered Kim to pay a $5,000 fine and forfeit more than $10,000 worth of money and items he gave to officials while they were investigating him.
"He clearly violated the law and ... he has accepted responsibility today," said David Schertler, Kim's attorney, during the proceedings. "He is extremely sorry for his conduct, and I know he is extremely embarrassed by it."
The investigation began in 2002 when Kim, who owns Oriental Spa on U.S. 1 in Elkridge, asked to meet with Paul Murphy, a state chiropractic board inspector. Murphy had inspected the spa and warned Kim about women working at the parlor with no state certification, according to the state prosecutor.
The state prosecutor's office recorded a meeting at which Kim gave Murphy - who had notified investigators - an expensive bottle of liquor and $500. In subsequent meetings through January, Kim gave Murphy a pearl necklace and earrings valued at $1,350 and more cash. All of the meetings were under the surveillance of authorities.
Detective Guy Williams, who works in the Howard County police vice section, and Lt. Keith Lessner, his supervisor, posed as corrupt officers during the investigation.
Between April last year and January, each officer received several payments of $500 to $1,500 in cash, and other gifts.
Documents from the state prosecutor say Kim had a scheme to take over the massage parlor industry in Howard County and wanted the inspector and the officers to inspect other spas frequently to make them willing to sell. He also asked for advanced notice of inspections and tried to get the officers to sell him fake licenses for unlicensed employees.
Kim was arrested in February and was scheduled to go to trial July 12. In arguing for a more lenient sentence, Schertler said Kim was accustomed to the culture of Korea, where it is more common to use gifts and gratuities than in American culture.